It must be great to work from home?
(First published November 2018)
How often do you hear this? How often is it then followed by comments about Jeremy Kyle, lunches out, doing the washing and other equally annoying comments?
Now don't get me wrong, there are days when I'd be reprimanded if I went into an office dressed the way I dress to work at home, which is usually somewhere in between "you own HOW MANY pairs of pyjamas" and the scene from friends where Joey tries to wear all of Chandler's clothes (I'm too tight to put the heating on across the whole house when there's just me here working in one small bit of it).
And there are many days when my alarm goes off to remind me to go for my youngest daughter from school and I realise I'm still in my pyjamas and my breakfast is still sitting uneaten on the edge of my desk. But it is still my preferred place of work. I guess it helps that this is the view from my desk!
I have been based at home for a number of years, so I've got some strategies in place to help me work as effectively as possible. I also love finding out about the hacks and apps others also use to make their time as effective and productive as possible while the washing machine is still 'calling'
Here are my top-ten tips for working from home:
1) Ignore all washing up, post, and other non-work related stuff - my husband has a really annoying habit of using my desk as a dumping ground for anything that needs moving somewhere else. I regularly point out that if the cleaners at his work piled all the crap they didn't t know what to do with / couldn't be bothered putting away in its proper place, on his desk overnight, he'd be pretty peed off to find it all there in the morning. So, either set a timer for 5 minutes and clear away whatever you can in that 5 minutes and then leave it, or just move it all somewhere else temporarily and get on with your day.
2) Have a plan for the day - I set my alarm 5 minutes earlier than I need to every day and come up with a plan for the day. I list everything that HAS to be done that day and plan it out within the time available. I also usually "eat the frog" first - that is, I do the job I'm least looking forward to first then I can 'treat' myself with the other work later.
3) Have a to-do list / work tracker that works for you - normally I like written lists - I'm a visual person and like to actually see and write things on paper / on a whiteboard, rather than on screen. But I was recently introduced to Asana and I am completely in love with it. I usually source my plan for the day from Asana.
4) Turn your emails off until lunchtime - I catch up on my emails in the 5 minutes planning time and then turn them off until lunchtime. I find this helps me concentrate and maintain my focus. I also find it helps in my "eat the frog" planning as I have that allotted time to get it done and then I can catch up with the outside world once it's done.
5) Work in specific time blocks - another recent discovery is the UFYH (UnF*ck Your Habitat) app which has a timer for working in blocks - 20 minutes with 10 minute break or 45 minutes with 15 minute break. I use the 45/15 throughout the day.
6) Accountability is key! - working on your own or from home can be a procrastinator's dream. When there is no-one there physically putting their head round your door and asking where you're up to on something, it's very easy to keep putting things off. Having an accountability mechanism is key to avoiding this. Join my new facebook group The Work from Homers where we will have regular accountability sessions as well as group chats on regular based-from-home topics and issues, and a forum in which to ask your own questions or start your own conversations
7) Use Skype or Zoom when talking to colleagues - instead of talking on the phone, get into the habit of skyping or zooming so that you see other people during your day. This also encourages those who have a proclivity that way, to get out of their pyjamas and into some 'proper' clothes. BUT always remember that the person or people you are video calling with can see whatever is behind you. I regularly speak with one member of a client's staff who has her washing on an airer behind her when we chat. But, when her boss is also included on the call, she has to position her laptop slightly differently
8) Take a break for lunch - The utopia of the work from homers' day. But you really should take a proper break and eat something healthy, not just a bar and a bag of crisps
9) Return to the heart of the cause - working in the charity sector is an amazing career and can lead you in some wonderful directions. But it is crucial that you regularly return to your root cause and immerse yourself in what it looks, feels and smells like to be at the heart of that cause. You can only really engage others in what your charity does and more importantly, why it does it, if you can accurately and passionately tell its story. And the best way to tell its story is to live it. Regularly.
10) Sit back and look smug - your friends and colleagues are partly right. Working from home can be great . Especially when there is no traffic, wrong leaves on the line, rain, snow, non-washer-uppers, non-showerers, office bores or other bains of the office life to contend with.